In Stitches at Seaside Needlepoint

Carol Kramer and Linda Conner have created a "happy place" for local needlepointers

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Carol Kramer and Linda Conner are passionate about keeping needle arts alive with Seaside Needlepoint in Vero Beach. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Carol Kramer and Linda Conner are passionate about keeping needle arts alive with Seaside Needlepoint in Vero Beach. Photo by Sam Wolfe

“Wow!”

That’s the word that comes to mind when you walk into Seaside Needlepoint for the first time and see the variety of canvases, fibers in a multitude of shades and textures, and pillows lining the walls; samples of ornaments, trays, belts, doorstops, and dog collars rest on tables and shelves along with an array of accessories.

In the center a sofa and two side chairs beckon, while nearby a long table surrounded by upholstered chairs awaits those seeking instruction or simply camaraderie and conversation as they work on their chosen projects.

It’s been four years since owners Carol Kramer and Linda Conner hung the Seaside Needlepoint shingle on Old Dixie Highway. From the outside the store doesn’t look much different from the others lining the small strip center. Inside, it’s a veritable candy shop for stitchers. Temptation is everywhere.

How and why the store, which also offers custom design and finishing services, came to be is one of a happy coincidence coupled with a giant leap of faith.

Jennifer Elmore, Deborah Ayer, Mugs Holifield, and Diana McCall enjoy the camaraderie that comes with stitching together. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Jennifer Elmore, Deborah Ayer, Mugs Holifield, and Diana McCall enjoy the camaraderie that comes with stitching together. Photo by Sam Wolfe

Kramer and Conner were complete strangers who just happened to be at the same place at the same time. Needle Nicely, the popular needlepoint store on Royal Palm Pointe and then in the Kmart Plaza was closing, and its contents were being sold to the highest bidder.

Canvases and fibers to create pillows, belts, wall hangings, ornaments, and more can be found at Seaside Needlepoint. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Canvases and fibers to create pillows, belts, wall hangings, ornaments, and more can be found at Seaside Needlepoint. Photo by Sam Wolfe

The women, both regular customers, were heartsick, hoping someone would step up to keep needle arts alive in Vero Beach. They had no idea how close to home that “someone” would be.

“I had just left the store and Linda came running after me saying we needed to talk,” says Kramer, smiling as she recalls the initial conversation that led to a partnership and the creation of Seaside Needlepoint.

“When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me with her to Needle Nicely. I literally grew up in that store, and I remember telling the owner that one day I was going to buy it. In a way I did,” Kramer muses happily.

“We met in January and opened the store in March,” Conner says. “Neither one of us had ever been in business before. Carol was a nurse, and my background was being a mother raising a family and sitting on a number of boards. My strengths are in one area, hers are in another; the dynamic works.”

Once the pair made the decision to go into business together, they wasted no time. They purchased Needle Nicely’s inventory, fine-tuned a business plan, and began looking for a space for their new store. It had to be affordable, accessible, and have adequate parking. The Old Dixie Highway location, across from Christi’s Fitness, hit every target.

Mugs Holifield looks over Jim Stanley’s boating-themed Christmas stocking, which he created for his grandson. Stanley has enjoyed stitching since he was in college. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Mugs Holifield looks over Jim Stanley’s boating-themed Christmas stocking, which he created for his grandson. Stanley has enjoyed stitching since he was in college. Photo by Sam Wolfe

The two women got to work, transforming an empty shell into a needlepointer’s delight, and news spread quickly thanks to word of mouth, social media, and the store’s website. “We have customers worldwide, but the majority are from Vero or within driving distance,” says Conner. “There are four women who occasionally come up from Jupiter and spend an hour or so here, then go out to lunch, making a day of it.”

“When COVID hit, we closed for a few months, then reopened wearing masks,” Kramer adds. “We were so busy. People were looking for things they could do at home. We had mothers wanting their 6- and 8-year-olds to learn how to stitch as a way of taking time away from the screens.”

“That’s one thing about needlepoint—it’s inclusive,” Conner adds. “We have men and women of all ages who stitch; while some are relatively new, others have been doing it for
a long time. Once you’re a stitcher, you’re always a stitcher.”

Jim Stanley knows how that goes. “I started when I was in college and have been with it ever since,” the 66-year-old chuckles. “I do a lot of custom stuff. For Christmas I made a stocking for my grandson that pictured my boat, a Grady White, coming at you with waves. He loved it and years from now will remember his grandfather made it for him. I did a black cummerbund with the Vero Beach Yacht Club burgee on it, and I just finished a 3-by-5-foot wall hanging tapestry of Dante’s Divine Comedy,” he says, a note of pride in his voice.

“One thing I like about needlepoint is it’s very methodical,” Stanley adds. “In a chaotic world, it slows things down and puts you in the moment.”

Lisa McLaughlin enjoys stitching collars for her dogs, including Frankie, and brings her pups into the store when she visits. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Lisa McLaughlin enjoys stitching collars for her dogs, including Frankie, and brings her pups into the store when she visits. Photo by Sam Wolfe

Mindfulness is just one of the health benefits needlepoint provides. It’s been proven that creating intricate designs exercises the brain and improves one’s mood, as once you learn a few stitches you can settle into working on an area and relax.

Diana McCall can testify to that. After being introduced to the basic stitches 43 years ago, she was hooked. “I think my husband has three dozen belts by now, and when people find out I made them, they can’t believe it,” she laughs. “I started doing needlepoint just after I got married. Back then it was very simple. You learned three or four stitches and you did a pillow. Bam! That was it. Now, the sky’s the limit—you can make anything!”

And she has: from 4-foot-tall nutcrackers to Christmas stockings for everyone in the family, including grandchildren and in-laws. “I enjoy needlepointing tremendously. Your hands are busy, so you’re not tempted to munch on popcorn while you’re watching TV—needlepoint is calorie free!”

In comparison to Stanley and McCall, Lisa McLaughlin could be called a newbie. “I didn’t start needlepointing until 15 years ago,” she admits cheerfully. “I was never crafty, but I thought it could be interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

Stitchers believe needlepointing exercises your brain and improves your mood. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Stitchers believe needlepointing exercises your brain and improves your mood. Photo by Sam Wolfe

“Once I got into it I loved it. I’ve made Christmas collars for all my dogs. My latest one is Frankie, a rescue dachshund, and every time I go into the store I take him with me and he plays with Kona, Carol’s dog,” McLaughlin enthuses. “Everyone there is so attentive. It’s a wonderful place to spend time.”

Even as the shop’s customer base has grown, the attentiveness has remained, thanks to the addition of three employees. “We also have finishers. If someone is going to the expense of purchasing a canvas and fibers, the quality of finishing has to be high,” Conner notes.

“And we have self-finishing items,” Kramer adds. “There are containers, luggage tags, clutches, ring boxes, purses, and covers for bricks that are door stoppers. It’s not just about making pillows anymore. You can stitch all kinds of things and give them as gifts, creating something that lasts forever, that become heirlooms.”

Interior designer and longtime needlepointer Jennifer Elmore rarely keeps anything she makes for herself, and her family and friends have benefited from her generosity. “Needlepoint is really a big part of my life,” she enthuses. “I started in college and made my first belt for my husband. He was a 28-inch waist then, and as his waistline expanded I added leather.

Linda Conner and Carol Kramer have created a bright and happy space for needlepointers in Vero Beach. Photo by Sam Wolfe
Linda Conner and Carol Kramer have created a bright and happy space for needlepointers in Vero Beach. Photo by Sam Wolfe

“Every year I make 17 Christmas ornaments, one for everyone in the family. I do needlepoint almost every night. I’m not a TV watcher; if I’m sitting, I’m stitching something for someone. I don’t know what I’d do without Seaside Needlepoint. Their inventory is amazing.”

There are days Kramer and Conner still can’t believe how far they’ve come in four short years.

“I’m convinced that not having been in business before had us thinking outside the box,” Conner says. “We wanted to make our store an enjoyable experience, and I think we’ve done that.”

Kramer nods in agreement. “The other day a customer came in and sat on the couch. When I asked her if she wanted help she said, ‘No, I just want to sit here for 30 minutes. This is such a happy place.’”

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